I am nowhere near good at coming up with what type of license to use and I don't want to be sued or have my work stolen so I am going to ask. Here is my situation: I am creating a software for my boss and the YMCA which helps keep track of our employees, their students, and the amount of lessons they have remaining (In a nutshell but the program is much more extensive then that), I am spent almost 100 hours creating it and its not completely done. Some of the hours spent were at work while being paid (Not sure if that plays a factor). Here is a list of conditions that I desire:

  1. My software to not be redistributed in any way without my knowledge and written consent.
  2. To not be liable for any damage it causes, for maintaining the software, or for its success.
  3. I do not want the software to be sold without my knowledge and consent either.
  4. I want the software to be closed sourced.

If there is a way I can have all of these in my software licensed I would be grateful, also if someone could explain to me where I need the license displayed and if it needs to be in the source code (since I am having it closed sourced).

  • 1
    See the default software license. – user40980 Feb 13 '14 at 18:17
  • 2
    Oh, and if you're worried about getting sued, you need to see a lawyer. We are not lawyers; we are just some random strangers on the Internet. – Robert Harvey Feb 13 '14 at 18:27
  • I don't think I will but years later when I am doing something completely different I don't want to come out of the blue and get sued for some reason like, the code doesn't work, I don't keep it up to date, etc. If I do get sued I will seek a lawyer obviously lol. – Brent Coleman Feb 13 '14 at 18:50
  • @BrentColeman - the time to see an attorney is before you get sued. That way you can avoid being sued or having to go to court. Attorneys can be great, but they can't undo mistakes made in the past. – user53019 Feb 14 '14 at 0:43
  • Are you a regular "W-2" employee, a 1099 contractor, or a contract employee via a third party. This will impact the answer. Are you an exempt or non-exempt employee? – Craig Feb 14 '14 at 19:34

Generally speaking, if you work for a company in an employer/employee relationship, and you write a program for them, they own it. (it's called a "work for hire"). So I don't see how you can assert any of your stated conditions. Yes, getting paid for some of the hours is a factor; it supports the idea that your software is a "work for hire."

You need to talk to the YMCA first and see if they will grant you these conditions. If they are willing, simply get a signed release from them and include those conditions in your software license.

Note that agreements and licenses don't actually prevent you from being sued, or prevent users from violating your stated conditions. All they do is specify the terms and conditions under which you wish the software to be used. The only way to eliminate all risk is to not release the software.

A lawyer that specializes in licensing law can help you draft a license that meets your stated conditions, and contains unambiguous verbiage that will stand up in a court of law. You can also try cobbling together a license from other licenses that you find on the Internet, if you think you're smart enough to try that yourself. Commercial licenses contain boilerplate language that limits liability and satisfies some or all of the conditions you specified in your question.

  • That is why I wanted to ask to make sure and see if my employer owns the software, now I know that I should seek a release (And if I don't get it I can just not finish it right? Because I did not sign a contract to do this program it is just something I am doing on my extra time at work.) – Brent Coleman Feb 13 '14 at 18:53
  • Read the Wikipedia article on works for hire. Among the factors considered: is the work being done for the company that hired you, did they furnish the equipment, did you work on it on company time, etc. – Robert Harvey Feb 13 '14 at 18:55
  • I read the wiki page and the only thing is I don't know if they could justify it under being "a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment" because my contract is very vague on the kind of work I do. – Brent Coleman Feb 13 '14 at 19:17
  • Your contract? I thought you said you were an employee ("your boss"). As an employee, your work description does not have to be specific. – Robert Harvey Feb 13 '14 at 19:19

I assume you are in the USA and a regular non-contract employee of the YMCA.

As an employee, things you produce for your employer as part of your job are a "Work-for-hire." See U.S. Copyright office Circular 9.

As an added complication, it sounds like you are doing some of the work on your own time which potentially runs into labor and wage law.

If you are a non-exempt employee then your employer must pay you for all of the time you are working for them and thus they may technically have pay you for the off-the-clock work you are doing. You are not allowed to "volunteer" to work off the clock -- the law does not allow that and your employer can get into trouble. To cover themselves legally they may tell you to stop working on this off the clock so they are not at risk.

The moral is: get contracts and agreements in writing before you start work.

I suppose I must add all of the standard notices that I am not a lawyer, etc.

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